Four trains an hour in sight
Winter draws on but a great number of local residents still made it to the Rivoli Ballroom to hear about the latest updates from the Cinderella Line last Saturday, along with our local MP, Vicky Foxcroft, representatives from Thameslink and Network Rail and a surprise appearance from the Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, who lent his support to the campaign - highlighting once again what an important issue transport is for local residents. For those who couldn't be there, here are the highlights. Vicky Foxcroft made the introductions and then handed over to Michael from the Cinderella Line Michael confirmed that the campaign will keep pressing forward, representing our community's needs to the rail operator and reiterating how, while the campaign has made some key achievements since its inception, the service is still not what it needs to be - especially after the setbacks from May. At this point it was over to Thameslink to fill in some of the detail.
Phil Hutchinson, head of Timetable planning brought everyone up to speed on where they are with the new timetable implementation. For our line, its encouraging news; from December this year we will finally see the 4 trains an hour we have been campaigning for.
A bit of deja-vu set in because we know we've heard this before, but as a campaign, we can only continue to push ahead - which we will do without any shadow of a doubt. The four trains an hour service will run all day Monday – Friday. The weekend service however is still going to be lacking. The weekend will see us left with two trains an hour until the end of next year due to some further key engineering works that need to be implemented. It’s not ideal, but there is an end in sight and we will be meeting regularly with Thameslink and Network Rail to ensure this vital uplift in our service remains on track. Larry Heyman, Stakeholder engagement manager then gave a more general update on the service, informing us that performance is fairly stable and driver recruitment is now at an appropriate level to be able to run the new timetables.
It was then over to Network Rail.
Jon Ruch, Senior Programme Manager, South East Route gave the following update:
Jon updated on the significant work now completed by Network Rail providing the backbone to the Thameslink Programme and unlocking additional capacity. This had included the completion of the core part of the Thameslink route - between Elephant and Castle and St Pancras, and London Bridge Stations, the untangling of the tracks on the London bridge approaches, track flyovers and the new Borough viaduct.
The focus of their work is now around completing the final part of the jigsaw – a clever but complex bit of kit called ETCS (European Train Control System) which provides a higher level of signalling capacity over the existing lineside signalling and is able to constantly supervise the trains speed and positioning safely.
In turn this underpins Automatic Train Operation (ATO), an on-train system which allows the trains to drive themselves (under driver supervision) through the core part of the Thameslink route - between Elephant and Castle / London Bridge and St Pancras.
With every train travelling through the core with consistent acceleration, run time and braking then additional capacity can be realised (In much the same way as variable speed limits on Motorways control all traffic to a consistent speed enabling higher capacity/throughput) . It is the combination of ETCS and ATO that will ultimately allow Thameslink to run 24 trains an hour through these stations safely and reliably, as part of the new timetable.
In addition the existing lineside signalling remains in place, so in the unlikely event that ATO/ETCS is unavailable, there is always the back up to revert to the lineside signalling to keep trains moving.
The ETCS infrastructure is now complete for the Core, with final systems testing ongoing for the London Bridge area which is due to complete in Spring 2019, enabling Thameslink to commence with training drivers on the new system.
Sadly not all 24 will run through the Cinderella Line...Perhaps one day! It was then over to the public to put their questions to the rail operators.
Here are some of the key points raised:
Q: Can we have more services to London Victoria? These are vital for those of us that want to get to that part of London?
Vicky Foxcroft: The campaign team and I have been raising this with Southeastern and there is currently a consultation going through about some proposed changes to their future timetables, so it is the ideal time for us to push this issue again.
The Cinderella Line says: with the holder of the franchise that will cover this route still to be announced, now is absolutely the time to make this important to the service provider - whether it is retained by SouthEastern or goes to someone new. The only way to do this is by ensuring they understand the public demand is there. As a campaign with enviable levels of public support, we know we can deliver numbers so please go ahead and do what you have been so very successful at doing in the past: add your voice.
Even if you don’t use the train to Victoria, the more services we have, the more passenger numbers will be spread between them giving us all more space to get to where we need to go.
Q: What is happening with the weekend services? Why are there still only two an hour?
Thameslink: In order to fix the issues in May, it was important to put the focus into the weekday timetables and ensure we can deliver this service safely and robustly. In addition to this, there are more engineering works that need to be completed over the weekends between now and the end of 2019. Once these have been completed we will be in a position to deliver 4 trains an hour on Saturdays and Sundays.
Q: The gap between the train and platform is way too big and nothing has been done about this despite it being raised at previous meetings?
Network Rail: We recognise there is an issue here and we will take this away to look at, however as the platforms at Crofton Park are curved, this presents a difficult challenge. It may be that initially we can look at adding signage to the platforms so that passengers with mobility issues know which parts of the platforms are easier to board at but more comprehensive solutions will also be looked-at.
Q: Have you done any modelling in terms of passenger numbers to understand how many people will want to get to Farringdon once Crossrail opens?
Thameslink: When we developed the new timetables, we modelled current and future passenger journeys to ensure that when Crossrail does open, we are making the most of the interchange at Farringdon. While only half of the Cinderella Line trains will go through to Farringdon, there will be frequent services at Blackfriars to provide an interchange for the short journey onwards.
Q: Will the results of the rail enquiry into the timetable issues be made public?
Thameslink: Absolutely. The Office of Rail and Road are conducting an investigation and the full report will be publicly available on their website in December. An interim report is already there
Q: Is there anything else that passengers can do to help to support the campaign?
The Cinderella Line says: Absolutely. Make sure you are signed up to our mailing list for updates of meetings and petitions to sign. Make sure to always touch in and out at the station even if you have a season ticket, and respond to the Victoria services consultation.
If you have a question that didn't come up, or wasn't answered, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will take it forwards.